Book of the Month: The Testing
The Testing- Joelle Charbonneau
The Testing is another one of the highly popular dystopian novels. It's title alone sparks interest. What are they testing and on whom? The maze pattern in the cover's background gives only a tiny hint to what goes on inside the book.
Sixteen year old Cia Vale is our story's heroine. She's a mechanic and the daughter of a farmer. Cia lives in the United Commonwealth, which has been ripped apart by the Seven Stages War. Basically, it's the United States far in the future, messed up by war and then the earth itself.
When students graduate, there's a chance they could be chosen for the Testing, a program that will admit them to the University, if they make it through. Cia has always wanted to be picked, but since all her brothers were ignored, she doesn't think she has a chance. However, she and several others from her colony are chosen, including Tomas, who she becomes friends with. It seems like a dream come true. When Cia arrives at the University, where the Testing will be held, she learns that passing won't be as easy as it seems. There are many tests, which if you fail, could lead to injury or death. The final test is the worst. They have to make it from an unknown city back to the University. The candidates are kept on a path back to the University filled with animals and each other. Cia must decide who to trust while using her wits to survive.
Thoughts about The Testing
This was an enjoyable book. Cia is a great heroine with all the spunk and smarts to make her lovable. She's a got skills and faults. She's a good character. The world was good. There are some awesome gadgets. My favorite is the skimmer, or what we call a hover car. The story is original too, though at first I was afraid that it would just be a cheap Hunger Games imitation. I wouldn't be surprised if it's made into a movie.
I do have several problems with it, though. First, the romance between Cia and Tomas. When the book starts she barely knows him, by the end they're head over heals in love. It's not impossible for that to happen, but this isn't a romance novel. I don't believe Joelle gave the spark between the two enough time to develop. Also, as the series progresses, the romance only gets in the way. Tomas would have served the story better as a good friend not a boyfriend.
Second, I don't think she gave enough backstory to her world. Writers tell you not to overwhelm readers with backstory, however she does the opposite. Joelle leaves you confused about things like the Seven Stage War. (After reading all three books I'm still not sure what happened.) Unlike the Hunger Games or Divergent, that give you the right amount of information about the world, the Testing doesn't give you enough.
Lastly, her prose is stiff. It's written in first person present tense like many dystopian novels, however, she didn't do a very good job using that style. Veronica Roth wrote beautifully using this format. Joelle's prose, while quite descriptive, is stilted and awkward. Sorry, but it just doesn't work for me.
Fans of the Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Maze Runner will probably enjoy this. Especially if they're looking for something new in the same genre. As for age, I suggest the reader should be at least 15. It has scary scenes and images that disturbed even me.